The kickoff time at Bronco Stadium between the Broncos and the Golden Eagles is scheduled for September 28, 3 p.m. ET and will be televised on an ESPN outlet.
About the Golden Eagles football program: the Southern Miss Golden Eagles are members of Conference USA (East Division).
Coach: Todd Monken, 0-0, first year.
2012 record: 0-12, 0-8 (CUSA)
2012 season in review: 0-12. What else do you need to say about team that won 12 games and then lost 12 games over a two-year span? Southern Miss opened last season at #17 Nebraska and lost 49-20. After that it only got worse. After a loss home to East Carolina, the Golden Eagles traveled to the Sunbelt Conference where the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers throttled them 42-17. The fourth game of the season was at home against #19 Louisville of the AAC and the 20-17 loss was their best game of the season. It was a rain-soaked game that had the Golden Eagles ahead from start to finish before giving it up in the last 6 minutes of the 4th quarter. The next game for Southern Miss was another home game against Boise State, losing 40-14. What was curious about that game was the Golden Eagles had more total yards but the 5 turnovers killed them. Throughout the rest of the season they were pummeled by the other CUSA members, but had better showings in the losses against UCF and UTEP. At the end of the dismal season first year head coach Ellis Johnson was dismissed.
Returning Starters: 5 (offense), 8 (defense).
Key Players and Returning Starters: RB Kendrick Hardy, WR Dominique Sullivan, CB Deron Wilson, NT Rakeem Nunez-Roches, DL Khyri Thornton, LB Alan Howze.
2013 Strengths: As bad as the Southern Miss program was last season, it’s not like they don’t have weapons. Back on staff for the upcoming season is defensive coordinator David Duggan, who coached the Golden Eagles from 2008-2011. The D-line needs to be rebuilt, and he is just the man who can do it. He has some core players, like NT Rakeem Nunez-Roches and senior tackle Khyri Thornton to work with. He also has a small cadre of potent linebackers to back them up, starting with senior Alan Howze. The one-time RB finished second on the team in 2012 with 66 tackles, including five stops for loss, 2.5 sacks and a pair of fumble recoveries. Senior Dylan Reda is the anchor at weakside. He started all but one game last year and finished with 55 tackles, 2.5 stops for loss and two forced fumbles.
Offensively the Golden Eagles produced just nine touchdown passes and ended last season ranked 117th nationally in passing efficiency. Look for that to change under coach Monken. At present he has junior QB Cole Weeks at the helm, and Weeks looked only fair by completing 8 of 19 passes for 106 yards and an INT in the spring game. But it’s far from a done deal at quarterback as redshirt freshman Kyle Sloter or sophomore Ricky Lloyd could still make a push for the starting job. But a larger presence could be lurking at quarterback with the new addition of Allan Bridgford, the four star transfer out of Cal who has yet to arrive on campus. If he can step in and take over the struggling offense all bets are off on the outcome of the Southern Miss season.
2013 Weaknesses: The Golden Eagles struggled mightily last year under center, and this year could be more of the same if they don’t find a good quarterback. Two months ago former Oklahoma State quarterback Wes Lunt was considering a transfer to Southern Miss but that fell through after Okie State put a damper on that option. Now some in the Golden Eagles camp are looking at the Cal transfer to carry the day instead of pinning their hopes on one of the QB’s on the Golden Eagle roster. But whoever handles the pigskin he will need to step up in a big way. If not, then instead of charging into Bronco Stadium the Golden Eagles could be stumbling onto The Blue. That game at Bronco Stadium will be extra tough on the Southern Miss squad as it will be their third straight road trip following trips to Nebraska and Arkansas. The question looming at the end of that hard road to Boise will be how much fight will still be left in them after the expected poundings at the hands of the ‘huskers and the Razorbacks.
There is another but lesser consideration to address. When first year head coach Ellis Johnson was dismissed last season, another first year head coach in Todd Monken took his place. Monken looks like a winner. He is the former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator with an impressive resume who came to Hattiesburg last December. But new coaches bring a lot of uncertainty and unpolished ideas to any football program that need time to gel and stabilize. The revolving coaching staff at Southern Miss is underscored by the news last month that their athletic director would not have his contract extended. The university is now searching for another, which will be Southern Miss’s third athletic director in 17 months. That can’t a good thing either.
For more on the Southern Miss Golden Eagles visit their official website.
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